Limits to international entry mode learning in SMEs

Christian Schwens*, Florian B. Zapkau, Keith D. Brouthers, Lina Hollender

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Despite extensive research, the literature is unclear about the circumstances under which a firm learns from its past foreign entry modes and how this experiential learning is related to future mode choices. Building on the internationalization process (IP) model and the idea that some experiential learning is location-bound, while other learning is non-location-bound, we develop and test theory to explain how experiential learning about foreign operation modes and markets impact future mode choices in new foreign markets. Overall, we argue that mode-based experiential learning is limited. Through the repeated use of a specific operation mode firms develop routines and processes that are non-location-bound and can be replicated in new foreign markets, leading to the use of this same mode type in new locations. But when complemented by experiential learning about a target market/region firms opt for operation modes with greater commitment in new foreign markets. Drawing on a sample of German SMEs and examining four different types of entry modes we find some support. However, we also identify a number of notable exceptions to our theory. In this way, we help provide unique new insights informing future IP model, experiential learning, and international entry mode research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-831
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Issue number7
Early online date10 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • foreign market entry
  • international experience
  • logistic regression
  • small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)


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